Western staff unites
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
In light of an overwhelming vote to unionize by Western staff members Monday, the only thing left to debate are the 147 votes challenged during the meeting.
Brad Hansen, president of the University of Western Ontario Staff Association, said the vote went well with 429 voting 'yes', 189 voting 'no' and only one spoiled ballot.
With issues like progression through the ranks, which bases salary on a specific job ranking as well as retirement packages, Hansen said they are happy to have been granted the ability to take legal counsel in negotiation.
The vote for unionization began as part of past negotiations in which members expressed their interest in becoming an in-house union, said Carol-Ann LaRouche, former president of UWOSA. Cards were then signed and presented to the Ontario Labour Relations Board which led to the vote.
"We need a legally binding contract and would like negotiations to have a legal footing," LaRouche said. She added the unionized group can also now draw upon others with their concerns.
Issues of interest for the group at this time were salaries, jobs and contracts, which LaRouche said she believed were vulnerable under the past system of negotiations.
Hansen said UWOSA's next step involves approaching a lawyer regarding the challenged votes and submitting documentation to the Labour Board discussing why these members should be included with other staff.
"Those who challenged these votes did so because it was felt they were outside the realm of the bargaining unit," he said, adding UWOSA will continue to fight on their behalf.
Bill Trimble, senior director of human resources at Western, said they will also begin preparing information for their meeting with the Labour Board in October regarding the challenged votes.
"Regardless of the outcome, we are pleased the vote was dramatically decided one way or the other because this shows there is a strong message of unionization," Trimble said.
Peter Mercer, Western's VP-administration, said the staff association has always had its own voice of bargained collectivity. He added the strong relationship between parties has laid a foundation allowing both groups to continue bargaining in good faith.
The votes challenged by both administration and the union were due to the sensitivity of information associated with the job positions held by these individuals, Mercer said.